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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1155


Senator BISHOP (10.27 a.m.) —Very quickly, I want to deal with my reservation in the report dealing with the Gillespie children matter. I want to deal with a particular piece of information that has come to me subsequent to that—that is, information from Ms Barbara Karadin. She says:

. . . I am a Volunteer Marine Radio Operator and Justice of the peace for New South Wales. I operate what is known as `Bar Point Base, Safe Boating Rescue and Radio Communications Club, Incorporated' from our home. My base radio station is opened on a twenty four hour basis and I am generally available 13-14 hours per day, per week on average.

She goes on to explain what her call signal is. She then says:

I recall the morning of 18 July 1992, when at about 0813 hours my husband told me something and I immediately went to the radio which is situated in our loungeroom.

She then describes the band she was operating and how she is able to pick up long distance messages as far afield as Vanuatu. She goes on:

I have been involved in this activity on an almost full time basis since mid 1984 . . .

She says that after being called on 18 July she went to the radio and noted the receiving channel was set at a particular frequency, which was the emergency distress band used in Australia. She continues:

I heard a transmission from a male with a foreign accent, although I had no difficulty with that accent. This male spoke in English and I heard him say words to the effect that he needed some specialised medicine brought out for a heart condition. I queried his position and was informed he was eight degrees, 54 minutes south, 139 degrees, 2 minutes East.

I said: `where is that?'. He said; `Thirty kilometres south of IRIAN JAYA. I said `Where is that?'

He said `IRIAN JAYA, BOROKA Boat Harbour, south coast of IRIAN JAYA, port of BOROKA, I want the Indonesians to bring the medicine out from MERAUKE'.

At about this stage I contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority by telephone . . . and spoke to the male who answered . . . He told me something (that he had been getting reports of this distress call for the past four days and that the AMSA had advised Indonesian authorities of the calls).

Bear in mind that this is all taking place on 18 July. Ms Karadin continues:

That male requested my assistance to continue the transmissions with the male seeking assistance. My telephone is alongside my radio which I continued to monitor and in fact I placed the telephone receiver alongside the radio speaker for a period so that the AMSA male could hear the call.

The AMSA male requested me to tell the distressed caller that they had despatched a patrol boat out to the location and that the patrol boat would arrive at about 1230 hours Indonesian time, that is, local time.

I did so (whilst the AMSA was still on open telephone line), I said: `To the vessel near MERAUKE, do you hear `HAWKESBURY RIVER''. I cannot recall if he acknowledged, but I then said: `Australian patrol boat, 1230 ETA, they are going to rescue the man, they are going to rescue the man'. He then said: `They take us to MERAUKE Embassy'. He then acknowledged that `they' understood and he said words to the effect of: `Will the boat take us to MERAUKE?'.

Acting on AMSA instructions I ignored that question and merely repeated: `Patrol boat arriving 1230', or words to that effect. That was the last radio exchange I had with the man in distress, until about 0826 hours when I heard the same caller transmit words to the effect of: `Everything okay now, no engine trouble, cancel help, cancel help'. At that time I had an open telephone line to the man from the AMSA in CANBERRA and was holding the hand set to the radio speaker. The AMSA man indicated to me his displeasure to that response and indicated that an aircraft had overflown the craft that morning and had only seen one person aboard.

After the last transmission from the distressed caller, acting on AMSA instructions, I transmitted to him: `Okay, Bar Point out', and I heard no further transmissions from him. I had identified myself and provided my telephone number to the AMSA man (whose name I never noted at the time) but did not hear from them again.

I have a practice of taping all emergency calls on a portable tape recorder which is by the radio. The recorder is a Sharp cassette recorder, and in this instance I commenced taping as soon as I responded to the radio call. That taping continued throughout the exchanges until the tape cassette expired.

I have marked that tape `1/6/92 (Indonesia) 2' and signed it with my normal signature. I have handed that tape to . . . for his retention if required. I PRODUCE that TAPE CASSETTE.

During the transmissions, I made rough notes on two pieces of notepaper which I have also handed to . . . I have written my signature on each page along with the date and (3) (3-A). A Logsheet that I used was also handed to . . . and I marked it (3-B). I PRODUCE THOSE DOCUMENTS.

The following day, 19 July 1992 at about 0820 hours, I heard a transmission by radio on the same frequency and I recognised the male caller as being the same person who called on 18 July 1992. He said: `May Day, May Day, there are five aboard'. I then said (at the same time I telephoned AMSA at CANBERRA and told them something at the same time putting the ear piece of the telephone to the radio speaker): `This is Bar Point Base, what's the trouble now?'.

He said: `I am aground on the other side of MERAUKE, no food, no water, tell INDONESIA'. Before I could acknowledge, the `skip' (that type of abnormal radio transmissions) faded and I heard no more.

At that stage, CANBERRA was still on the line and the male there instructed me that he would `inform INDONESIA'. That was the last I heard of the matter. During that exchange, I made rough notes on a piece of notepaper, which I have handed to . . . and signed and dated and marked 19/7/92 (4). I PRODUCE THAT NOTE.

In other words, all these things occurred while those people were still in Indonesian waters before they had left the jurisdiction of Indonesia. There was ample evidence on the record that they were there and action should have been taken. The Maritime Safety Authority was well and truly in the know. This statement was made to the police.

  Ms Karadin also informs me that she sent a copy of this to DFAT, the Minister's department, and has never had an acknowledgment. She says in her statement:

On 30 July 1992, I heard a news broadcast, as a result of that I contacted official of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority CANBERRA at about 1718 hours and later the Australian Federal Police, CANBERRA . . . told him something about 2130 hours . . . between the distress caller, myself and the other radio station, which I believe to be at MOOLOOLABA, QUEENSLAND.

  I cannot assist further, except to explain that the cassette tape was dated . . .

That was when she had dated that material. Again the matter that concerns me is that there was so much information around on which action could have been taken and was not taken.

  I think I made quite clear at the time of the estimates hearings that there is a responsibility on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to make sure that his first interest is for Australian citizens. As I said at the time, this is simply more information that has come to hand which surely required from the Minister a much better response than merely raising the matter over the dinner break in a particular conference that he was attending in Manila.